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Drop D Guitar Tuning

In this lesson we will be learning about drop D tuning. This is going to be a fun lesson if you are in to rock or metal because those kinds of music use drop D tuning quite often. First we will go over how to tune your guitar to drop D and then we will learn the power chord shape for the bottom three strings when using drop D tuning. Once you have learned the shape we will check out a short riff that uses drop D tuning.

To tune your guitar to drop D all you need to do is tune down the low E string one whole step to a D. You can use the open D string as a reference note for tuning. The D note on the open D string is just one octave higher than the dropped D note on the 6th string. If you are having trouble tuning the low E string to a D by ear, just be patient with yourself. Try using a tuner to tune the low E string to a D note until your ear becomes more familiar with this tuning.

Now that your guitar is in drop D lets learn the power chord shape for the bottom three strings. If you wanted to make an A power chord in standard tuning, you would play the 6th string on the 5th fret with your 1st finger and the 5th and 4th strings on the 7th fret with your 3rd finger. Since we tuned down the 6th string one whole step, you now have to move the note on the on the 6th string 5th fret up one whole step to the 7th fret. Now all three notes of the power chord are on the 7th fret. You can just play all three notes with a bar using any one of your fingers. This is the shape for a power chord on the bottom three strings when using drop D tuning.  Pretty easy, right.

One of the really cool things about drop D tuning is that it allows you to move your power chords around much faster than standard tuning. If you hear a rock or metal song where the power chords on the rhythm part are just jumping around all over the place, odds are that they are using some kind of drop tuning.

The song “Dogman” by King’s X is a great example of what you can do with drop D tuning. The original song is in drop D flat but regular drop D will work for our purposes. Start off by playing your power chord using your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the bottom three strings. Now, play a power chord on the 6th fret with your 2nd finger. Play the 5th fret of the 5th string with your 1st finger, then the 6th fret of the 6th string with your 2nd finger, and back to the 5th fret of the 5th string using your 1st finger again. Finish off the riff by playing this sequence of power cords; 5th fret with your 3rd finger, 3rd fret with your 1st finger, back to the 5th fret with your 3rd finger, one more time on the 3rd fret with your first finger, and finally all three low strings open.

Experiment with this tuning and try to make up your own riffs and progressions using the power chord shape. Find a few songs that you like that are in drop D and see if you can learn them.

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